Old needles dying on scots pine - how did I screw up?

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It just shedding needles from stress. I never liked earthenware clay pots. They caused to much water loss for my liking. I would put it in a mica pot with Boon mix and cut up a loose layer of live moss on the surface. This helps moderate water and air transfer as well as adding good microorganisms to the soil. Add mychorrhizae.

I'd wait til the buds are swollen and ready to extend.
 

0soyoung

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Here are pics fwiw. I don’t think fully 100% of old needles are dead, but very nearly. Looking at the roots I don’t see any signs of growth there but it may be too early yet. It is not particularly root bound btw, and there didn’t seem to be any problems with them. Most are nearer the bottom of the pot as you would expect and may not have been affected by the dryness.
I think that is good news about roots!

The foliage color change is very dramatic! I've been looking for things in papers and have come up empty. Scots pines are used as environmental canaries (in the coal mine) in Europe. First and second year needle survival should be close to 100%, but I am unable to find anything about what would cause second year die off like you are seeing. Forrest research indicates that the general health of canopy most strongly reflects things that happened six year previous.

In other words, this might not be because of events this past year. Maybe the year before.l

All there is to do, is patiently observe what happens next. I bet new growth is coming soon to a bench near you :)
 

Vance Wood

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I think that is good news about roots!

The foliage color change is very dramatic! I've been looking for things in papers and have come up empty. Scots pines are used as environmental canaries (in the coal mine) in Europe. First and second year needle survival should be close to 100%, but I am unable to find anything about what would cause second year die off like you are seeing. Forrest research indicates that the general health of canopy most strongly reflects things that happened six year previous.

In other words, this might not be because of events this past year. Maybe the year before.l

All there is to do, is patiently observe what happens next. I bet new growth is coming soon to a bench near you :)
I think this is probably good advise. Just wait out the tree unless you can somehow confirm that the tree is suffering from root rot. If that is so it is going to be necessary to repot the tree bare root plant the tree in pure sand and give the tree a chance to recover after all the rotted roots are removed. There is an aritcle in one of the old copies of Bonsai Today that documents the process. Understand that this is a risky prodcedure and the odds of failure are high.
 

Velodog2

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Thanks to all for the input and research! Whatever happened waiting and watching is about all I can do. I’ll certainly let u know whatever happens.
 

wireme

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Here are pics fwiw. I don’t think fully 100% of old needles are dead, but very nearly. Looking at the roots I don’t see any signs of growth there but it may be too early yet. It is not particularly root bound btw, and there didn’t seem to be any problems with them. Most are nearer the bottom of the pot as you would expect and may not have been affected by the dryness.
View attachment 183380View attachment 183381View attachment 183382
You might want to compare to this

http://www.forestpests.org/nursery/lophodermium.html

The link above describes a pine needle cast also known as “spring reddened” because symptoms show up quickly in early spring. I don’t know, just a thought.
The pics remind me a bit of a Douglas fir needle disease that I’m familiar with. Rhabdocline needle cast. Needles are infected in summer but remain symptomless until spring when you find out real fast if you’ve got it!
 
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I saw no evidence of needle cast on the healthy needles in the last photo. A dose of Daconil doesn't hurt. The spray bottle version comes out like snot. The concentrate that is then diluted doesn't do that.
 

just.wing.it

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I think I've lost more conifers by postponing the removal of dirt/soil than by aggressively cleaning it out circa August.
Same here...
Getting them all the way out of the dirt is my top priority.
They'll either, rebound strong and reward you with healthy growth, or they mope around for a year or 2 then recover, or they die and I move on.
 
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I think this is probably good advise. Just wait out the tree unless you can somehow confirm that the tree is suffering from root rot. If that is so it is going to be necessary to repot the tree bare root plant the tree in pure sand and give the tree a chance to recover after all the rotted roots are removed. There is an aritcle in one of the old copies of Bonsai Today that documents the process. Understand that this is a risky prodcedure and the odds of failure are high.
This concept of planting it in pure sand sounds so last century. I have a Scots that turned the most beautiful shade of yellow on the interiors of the stem tips one spring. Chlorosis. It turns out the container was sunken down on the botton and water pooled there. I repotted into Boon mix (akadama, pumice and lava,) and it recovered it's vitality that spring.
 
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Same here...
Getting them all the way out of the dirt is my top priority.
They'll either, rebound strong and reward you with healthy growth, or they mope around for a year or 2 then recover, or they die and I move on.
I agree. I bare root all my pines early in their development. My teacher cringes but all my pines are thriving.

Survival is all about proper root techniques and aftercare.
 

just.wing.it

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I agree. I bare root all my pines early in their development. My teacher cringes but all my pines are thriving.

Survival is all about proper root techniques and aftercare.
Yeah, it's the most important thing, from my view...
I killed my first mugo, from year one, after 2 years of wiring and styling, because it was too wet in the nursery soil over winter.
Once the tree is fully established in a good substrate, then the work begins!
 

Velodog2

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Ok, not to get ahead of things too much, but if it does bud out, or even just survive this spring, will it be too stressed for a bare root soil replacement? Everyone is emphasizing the importance of that quite strongly. Does it’s importance supercede other concerns?
 
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Ok, not to get ahead of things too much, but if it does bud out, or even just survive this spring, will it be too stressed for a bare root soil replacement? Everyone is emphasizing the importance of that quite strongly. Does it’s importance supercede other concerns?
I would have no qualms about doing that on an ailing tree. An appropriate sized course, airy mix with either spaghmum moss or chopped live moss on top can do wonders. Watering needs more attention with the course soil but moss helps moderate the loss and holds adequate air and moisture for the tree. Roots love this treatment in my area.
 
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TomB

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I'd be a bit more careful. All respect to @twisted trees, who has obviously had different results, but every Scots pine that I've bare rooted, or have heard of being bare rooted, has died.
I've been using the 'Boon half bare root' technique ever since I heard about it, and it's working well for me so far. In your position I'd be doing that, using an akadama / pumice / lava soil mix.
 
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I'd be a bit more careful. All respect to @twisted trees, who has obviously had different results, but every Scots pine that I've bare rooted, or have heard of being bare rooted, has died.
I've been using the 'Boon half bare root' technique ever since I heard about it, and it's working well for me so far. In your position I'd be doing that, using an akadama / pumice / lava soil mix.
That's sound reasoning.
 

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It Depends:eek:. The HBR may be the safest root to go. However if the conditions are really poor on both sides and in the centre then leaving the tree in those conditions is very risky as well. It is a judgement call on the actual tree. How many dead roots, how much compacted old soil, areas with no roots etc. It makes no sense to leave compacted soil with dead roots and no growth for a longer period of time in hopes of improvement.
I agree that it is all about the technique and care taken in repotting combined with the aftercare. A better quality of substrate makes a huge difference. We need to remember in the past when the Japanese use the term sand they are referring to River Sand which is more like what we would call a #2 or #3 Grit. Sometimes the detail is lost in the translation. I have found medium size pumice to be very effective in collection and emergency repot situations. Then only fertilizing after new growth is evident.
 

Velodog2

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Well the deed is done. Buds were definitely swelling so I did a full repot combing things out all the way to the base of the trunk. There were fine white root tips as well so I think things are ok, but the different strata of soils were definitely causing imbalances in moisture levels from one part of the rootball to another. The “nebari” is kaka but oh well.

I will say I hate repotting pines! The roots are so delicate and stringy and those white tips never survive regardless of how careful you are. Once things are cleaned out everything just hangs there looking limp and hopeless. Ugh.

I only trimmed back the extremely long runners and dead roots. The original soil was a good mix of organics and turface so I remixed that half and half with new soil for the repot. Unfortunately I didn’t expect the rootball to be as small as it was and was not ready with an appropriate bonsai pot. It went into a smaller and shallower training pot instead.

So we’ll see. It seemed healthy enough to survive the procedure, if I didn’t over do it.
 

Adair M

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Well the deed is done. Buds were definitely swelling so I did a full repot combing things out all the way to the base of the trunk. There were fine white root tips as well so I think things are ok, but the different strata of soils were definitely causing imbalances in moisture levels from one part of the rootball to another. The “nebari” is kaka but oh well.

I will say I hate repotting pines! The roots are so delicate and stringy and those white tips never survive regardless of how careful you are. Once things are cleaned out everything just hangs there looking limp and hopeless. Ugh.

I only trimmed back the extremely long runners and dead roots. The original soil was a good mix of organics and turface so I remixed that half and half with new soil for the repot. Unfortunately I didn’t expect the rootball to be as small as it was and was not ready with an appropriate bonsai pot. It went into a smaller and shallower training pot instead.

So we’ll see. It seemed healthy enough to survive the procedure, if I didn’t over do it.
So, the way I read it is you did a full bare root repot? Not a half?

By the way, let’s review what a HBR is:

You start off as if it were a regular repot. That is, you start on the bottom. Scrape along the bottom with the 3 pronged forked thingy. Keeping the bottom flat. As you scrape, try not to dig into the bottom of the rootball, just keep it as flat as can be. Once you’ve loosened a lot of old soil, shear off whatever is sticking out of the bottom. Watch out for tie-in wires! Don’t dull your scissors. You will cut off a lot of roots, white tips and all. Pay particular attention to heavy roots sticking straight down. Cut them off flat. You may have to do several iterations if this to get your rootball to the height you want. If ithus is the first potting from the typical nursery can, don’t bother with the scraping, just cut away about half of the old root ball! Use a saw if you have to.

The idea is to get the bottom is the rootball as flat and as smooth as possible. No fine hair roots, or any roots for that matter, should stick out of the bottom. Why? Well, if no roots stick out, they’re less likely to grow into the new soil. We DONT want new roots yo grow from the bottom. We want new roots to grow radially, off the sides.

Now set the tree down on the table on the flat bottom. We now will address the top and sides if the root ball. That’s right, up to this point, only the bottom had been worked.

Take your bent tip tweezers and drag them across the surface of the root ball from up near the trunk straight out towards the edge of the rootball. It’s easierst if it’s on a turn table. Scrape from base of trunk straight out to the edge of the rootball. Sometimes you’ll have to apply a bit of pressure. As you get close to the edge of the rootball,tou’n Like find circling roots that can be pulled away from the rootball. Try as you scrape away to create a bit of a slope on the top of the rootball with the slope running down from trunk to edge.

Go all the way arond the trunk, loosening old soil, straightening out crossing roots, removing dead ones, etc. You should have a rootball with some long dangly roots hanging off the edges. Now take sharp scissors and cut those long dangly roots off, leaving about 1/2 inch sticking out. The edge of the rootball should be fuzzy with little roots all around. (Unlike the bottom, which should be smooth.)

That’s a normal repot!

Now, here’s the HBR part! If you want to do a HBR, choose which half you want to bare root. I recommend to do the weakest half. So get the bent tip tweezers again or if the root ball is really dense grab a root hook, and start loosening more soil from your chosen half. Try to get all the way up under the trunk if you can. Using water can help wash off or soften a dense core. Just be sure NOT to get the “keeper” half wet. Just wash the weak side. Work until you get all the old soil out of the old rootball on one side.

Now pot the tree in a pre prepared pot. Be absolutely sure to affix the tree into the pot so it doesn’t move at all! Backfill with good bonsai soil. Use chopsticks carefully to get new soil in the voided area. Also make survthe little fuzzy roots on the non bare root side are in contact with the new soil. After you backfill and chopstick, carefully give the pot a thump or two with the meat of your fist. That helps settle the soil. Make sure the soil is flat on the surface, and not mounded up. There should be about 1/4 inch of inside lip of the pot exposed.

Now water until the water runs clear. If it’s a Conifer, set it outside in the sun and try not to move it for three weeks while new roots grow out.

I suggest you go to www.bonsaiboon.com and obtain his pine repotting DVD. Or stream it. It’s very reasonable to stream.
 

Velodog2

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Thank you Adair. That was very helpful. Perhaps I should have done the HBR. The roots were messed up on this as they had clearly never been touched since it was a seedling. The original rootball and soil were flat-ish but then there was a layer of tulle mesh for some reason that everything was growing through. The fabric was half rotted but still had to be delicately cut away to free everything growing through it. Then there were two more layers of roots after that. The few surface roots that could have formed a somewhat poor nebari were mostly dead and below that was mostly just a two inch tap root that forked in two like a snake tongue.

So I’m not very high on this tree right now. It’s been fun doing what I could with it but at this point it would be best to sell it and move on, if it lives. I do like Scots pine for their bark and naturally short needles and wish it were easier to find decent quality ones in this country.
 

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